- NASA astronaut Christina Koch has returned from a record-breaking 328-day spaceflight.
- While aboard the International Space Station (ISS), Koch was part of the first all-female spacewalk and participated in a number of critical research projects.
- She launched for the ISS on March 14, 2019.
NASA astronaut Christina Koch and her two space-faring colleagues landed safely on the remote steppes of Kazakhstan this morning.
Koch returned from a record-breaking 328-day space mission—the longest amount of time spent in space by any woman. She launched for the International Space Station (ISS) on March 14, 2019, along with fellow NASA astronaut Nick Hague and Russian cosmonaut Alexey Ovchinin.
While on the ISS, Koch played baseball with her fellow astronauts, ate space pizza (!), and conducted a number of crucial experiments. Crucially, she was part of the team that conducted the first all-female spacewalk. Heck of a résumé.
Koch's 328-day mission is the second longest spaceflight conducted by a U.S. astronaut—Scott Kelly holds that record with 340 days spent in space—but it does break the record for the longest amount of time a woman has spent in orbit. (The record for longest consecutive time spent in space by any person goes to Russian cosmonaut Valery Polyakov, who spent almost 438 days aboard the Mir space station in the mid 1990s.)
During her time on the ISS, Koch conducted six spacewalks, including the first all-female spacewalk with astronaut Jessica Meir on October 18, 2019. They repaired a faulty charge-discharge battery unit during their roughly six hour spacewalk.
Last month, Meir and Koch completed a nearly 7.5-hour spacewalk to, again, repair batteries outside the ISS. The spacewalk was briefly hampered by an issue with Koch’s helmet lights, but continued as planned.
Research and Development
While aboard the ISS, Koch was also responsible for a number of experiments designed to help NASA understand the effects of microgravity on the human body and tiny, tiny proteins. She participated in projects to explore the body's response to weightlessness, radiation, and isolation on long-durations flights, among other things.
Koch played an integral role in the Microgravity Crystals investigation, which aims to freeze proteins associated with tumor growth. Similar projects have been conducted on Earth without success, but conditions in microgravity may prove helpful in combating the growth of cancer-causing proteins.
The astronaut also participated in the Vertebral Strength investigation, which explores the impacts of microgravity on bone and muscle density. Vertebrae and muscles in the spine are particularly susceptible to degradation, which can eventually lead to fractures. Understanding how quickly this happens, and how the body reacts to these stresses, will help NASA
Like all astronauts who spend a significant amount of time in space, Koch will be subjected to a series of tests now that she’s back on Earth. Understanding the potential health hazards associated with spaceflight will help NASA prepare astronauts for future missions to the Moon and Mars.
You Might Also Like